My Adventure With Jazz Piano
Chord Voicings Was Born
I was taking a saxophone lesson in my basement. Yes, I was really fortunate to have the great pleasure of knowing someone who was an outstanding jazz performer, a super sax teacher who actually made house calls, and a great guy (who later became world renowned) who visited me once a week to give me lessons. But they weren’t just “run of the mill” music lessons. He was a genuine inspiration to me and still is to this day.
A typical lesson would consist of his sitting down at my Wurlitzer electronic piano as he accompanied me as I played through chord
progressions that he had just previously written down. The idea was to get me to improvise over those chord progressions repeatedly to the point of my eventually feeling comfortable doing so.
Now, to put this in perspective, I was about 14 years old at the time and my experience on piano had already included about 9 years training. So, here he was, comping on the piano while I was pursuing a newer passion of learning to play and improvise on the tenor sax. But it was this experience that really served as a milestone for me. You see, as I was jamming over those chord changes, my eyes would be diverting their attention, back and forth, from the written page to what his fingers were playing on the keys.
Over the course of those previous 9 years, I had come to be quite confident with playing chords on the piano. I knew all of them. At least I thought I did… until I witnessed what he was playing. This guy was playing chord structures that I hadn’t even been remotely familiar with. I mean, I knew my triads, including major, minor, augmented, and diminished. I was also familiar with just about any 7th chord one could come up with. In addition, I was confident with playing any of these chords in any key. But when this dude started comping for me the very first time, I suddently realized that what I knew was very little.
“What are you playing?” I asked with both curiosity and excitement.
“Voicings,” he replied.
When he uttered that word, it instantly became apparent to me that there was a whole world of knowledge that I was about to explore that would serve as both inspiration and satisfaction. When I heard it, it was like a light bulb went on that exclaimed, “You are being introduced to a whole different world!”
Was I ever. It was at this point that I had learned what a jazz piano voicing was. He would play three simple notes with his right hand while his left hand played something similar to what a bass player would be playing. Those three notes looked nothing like what I had recognized as a chord of any kind up to that point.
Here is an example of one of those common jazz piano chord voicings he was playing:
Again, the note in the bass area (the root), he would play with his left hand. The upper three notes were played with the right hand.
I looked at him and asked him for further clarification. As he continued to comp this particular voicing, he responded, “C minor.”
I was not only confused but stunned by the fact that I didn’t have a clue what he meant. I had only been familiar with a C minor chord to look something like this (in this case, Cmin7):
He followed it up with other structures as he played over the chord progression that had me bewildered.
So, as I mentioned, I was being introduced to the unknown. Here was a guy playing chord structures I had never played or even seen before, and he called them “voicings,” a musical term I had had no clue about. Furthermore, he wasn’t even a piano player… and I was! Geeesh!
Hence, my journey of exploring jazz piano voicings and jazz piano chord progressions began.
It’s pretty accurate to say that he served as my inspiration to explore the art of jazz piano, an adventure that I have been so grateful for ever since.
After that, I grabbed whatever information I could in the form of books on the subject. I would open up a book, gaze at an example, read the explanation that accompanied it, play it on the piano, and often amaze myself. Truly, it was mind boggling for me to realize that I had endured almost ten years of piano study with people who actually were oriented with pop music and improvising without ever having been exposed to what a voicing was. I eventually came to terms with the fact that this area was simply not something any of those previous piano teachers were familiar with. Certainly, I couldn’t blame them for that. I was, however, thankful for everything they were able to share with me, which was quite a bit.
So, for about four years after those sax lessons, I was did a lot of “self-teaching” on the topic of jazz piano chord voicings and
progressions. I acquainted myself with many of the common jazz chords on piano, including 9th chords, 11th chords, and 13th chords. Learning these extensions was one thing… it was quite another to see how these jazz piano chords could be turned into jazz piano voicings that looked almost nothing like their original structures. It was a wonderful world of confusion, curiosity, excitement, and joy all at once!
It became very clear right away… jazz piano was my thing. I
absolutely loved this whole world of learning how to improvise,
discovering and playing jazz chord voicings, increasing my jazz tune repertoire, and further developing my personal piano playing style more and more.
Brief excerpt from ProProach
jazz piano chord voicings program
This has been a passion of mine since those days of being a teenager. It’s a passion that has extended itself to my falling in love with the idea of helping others who share similar interests. Whenever I encounter another individual, whether in person or in “cyberspace,” I get those inner “butteflies” that go hand in hand with helping others to learn about a subject that I have always been fascinated with.
I Would Like To Share The Common Jazz Chords Played On Piano… And More
Many people in different parts of the world have come to know me as the creator of ProProach, which is an online learning program that was born out of my love for sharing what I know in the area of jazz piano chord voicings. When it comes to learning jazz piano chords for beginners, it’s terrific. The program consists of weekly lessons (over the course of 24 weeks) that shares many of the common jazz chords for piano played by the pros. Not only do I have a real passion for sharing this knowledge in a fashion that is easy for people to understand but I have to say that I really feel for the individual who is learning this material for the first time. I remember coming home for school, eating a snack around 3:00pm, going down to the basement, putting on a jazz record, and going to sleep while listening to jazz pianist like Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans as I wondered, “What in the world are those voicings they are playing?!” At least I had
learned to call them “voicings” by that time. It’s that sense of curiosity… that need to know…say it however you like… but it gave more and more life to my thirst for knowledge.
The exploration of jazz piano chord voicings continues to be a thrill
for me, as you never really “know them all.” After all, there is always
a variation of a chord voicing that’s possible… and a variation of
that… etc. Yes, I have only touched the surface when it comes to
explaining the kind of passion I have for this art.
If this art form is somewhat new to you, perhaps you can take part in
this passion with me simply by taking a look at that jazz piano voicing shown in the illustration above and exploring it further. Those three notes in the chord represent the 1, 11, and 7 of the chord of Cmin7 (the 4th is referred to as the 11 since it is the same note an octave higher). Thus, what you are actually playing is a Cmin11 chord voicing. How about taking that voicing and transposing it to the other keys? For starters, simply play all the chord tones one half step higher, which leads you to Dbmin11. Then play everything up another half step. There you have Dmin11. Then play Ebmin11… continue through all the keys!
This is how I recommend students approach the lessons in ProProach. All too often, people are in a hurry for the next lesson. But if you’re not spending a good week making the most of a lesson, you’re not gaining the maximum benefit from it. That’s the reason I designed the program to be spread out over a duration of 24 weeks. After you go through the entire course one time, you have indefinite access to all those lessons anyhow, so you can take yourself through the program again and again. Ahhhhh, the rewards for doing so! I really can’t describe in words the value of actually doing that.
Jazz Piano Chord Voicings PDF
I created a jazz piano voicings pdf that you can actually download for free. Many people have requested a jazz piano chords chart but I created this one to be consistent with how I recommend you learn all the voicings covered in ProProach… learn each one in all the keys… and have fun doing it! So, it’s a pdf file that consists of the very first chord voicing demonstrated in ProProach shown in all the keys. I highly recommend that you make it a point to spend a couple of weeks with Lesson #1 and Lesson #2, as they are closely related. Play those voicings in all the keys. Also, incorporate them into favorite tunes of yours. Actually see how the voicing can be used in the context of your playing. I have been told time and time again by ProProach members that it is in this area that this program is in a category of its own. You see, it’s one thing to learn how to play a certain chord structure of jazz piano chord voicings… it’s quite another to incorporate it into your songs. Yes, you’ve got to use what you are learning. This is emphasized throughout the entire program, and I show you ways to do that, of course. I have no problem with a traditional jazz piano chords chart. However, I will say that once a person becomes accustomed to learning a particular chord voicing as encouraged throughout ProProach, more can be gained from such a chart as a result. To get this jazz piano voicings pdf, simply fill out the form below and you’ll be sent a link via email that will take you to the appropriate page to download your copy:
only receive the link to access it but I will also follow up with three
free lessons that I created on the subject of jazz piano chord
voicings. You’ll want to take advantage of those lessons. The first
will provide you with a basic way to voice chords that will serve as a
building block for so much more. Also, we will take a look at right
hand piano chord playing as well as a jazz piano chord voicing strategy that you absolutely must become familiar with it (it’s a gem that the masters use time and time again!).
I would like to encourage you to use those lessons in a manner
consistent with getting the most from them. They each consist of
textual explanations and graphics (ProProach actually utilizes both plus a complimentary video with each lesson). To maximize your benefit from those three lessons, read the text thoroughly while the graphics illustrate what is being discussed. Actually play the chord voicing examples you see those examples. Once you are able to do that with confidence, take the concept and apply it to at least one other tune that you know. I would really like to see you take the lessons beyond the scope of just what you see there. This will lead to your not only having some great jazz chord voicing strategies in your piano playing “toolbox” but your confidence will already start soaring. Also, keep it fun. Enjoy those lessons at your own pace. They will presented to you over the course of about a week or so but follow them as convenient for you.
Jazz Piano Chord Progressions
I would like to share with you a few of the most common jazz piano chords progressions that you will come across as you familiarize yourself with many standard tunes.
The II – V is the most common jazz piano chords progression that you will come across. Roman numerals are generally used when referring to chord functionality. Therefore, the II (2) and V (5) of the key of C Major are: D and G. The II is a minor chord and is often designated like this: ii (lower case representing minor). The V is a major chord, specifically the dominant chord of the key. Thus, we have the II chord being Dmin7 and the V chord being G7. Often, we see it like this: II-7 V7.
The dominant 7th chord (V7) has the strong tendency to resolve to the I chord. As a result, we often see this very common jazz chord
II – V – I
In the key of C Major, this would usually represent Dmin7 – G7 – Cmaj7 (sometimes Cmaj6)
The I – VI – II – V jazz chord progression is also very common…
In the key of C Major, this represents Cmaj7 – Amin7 – Dmin7 – G7
Of course, there are many more. Familiarity with these jazz chord
progressions in all the keys is highly suggested. It’s well worth your
time and effort! The program mentioned above will have you becoming more comfortable actually playing this progressions in a manner that a jazz piano stylist would.
Remember, there is always more to learn… and that’s something to be thankful for. You’ll never get bored with the world of jazz piano chord voicings!
Jazz Piano Chord Tutorials
The Piano Amore store has so many jazz piano chord tutorials (way too many to mention here). In short, if you like the idea of “looking of a pro’s shoulders” and having him actually explain what he is doing as he plays, then you’ve just got to check things out there. Among the many tools that will get you mastering jazz piano chords and voicings you will find there, the Sneak Peeks series is so very popular. but don’t stop there. You see, out of my passion for sharing this information with those who share enthusiasm for unlocking the secrets to jazz piano chord voicings, I created a number of video sessions devoted to doing just that. So take your time investigating what’s there. Here is a short video excerpt that demonstrates, among other ideas, a way to voice the minor 9th chord:
Sometimes Less Is More
I want to make a point of mentioning that, when it comes to sounding good, it’s not necessary to be able to play complex ideas. It’s common for beginners engaging in the world of playing jazz piano to have the tendency to play everything they know in a given song. This often results in the music sounding like a collage of exercises. For example, once a student jazz piano learns the blues scale, he or she will have the inclination to play up and down that scale all over the keyboard. Rather than sounding musical, it often sounds like a practice session. This is not to say that I discourage this type of exploring. I am merely saying that, when performing a tune, it’s not necessary to play everything in your piano playing “toolbox” to sound professional. Small ideas played in an economical fashion, complimented by simple chord voicings, can really be conducive to a pleasant, coherent performance. Actually, you’ll catch on this this priinciple as you explore these lessons of mine. To confirm the validity of this, just listen to recordings of your favorite pro pianists and you’ll discover that they really have a knack for conveying simple musical ideas in a very tasteful, musical fashion.
Incorporating Jazz Piano Voicings, Fills, & Other Ideas Gradually
When it comes to building your confidence with piano styling, it can be a real confidence booster if you learn one idea at a time and incorporate itt into your playing. Really focus on that piano chord voicing, for example, to a point where you can use it with confidence. Perhaps you are comfortable playing a favorite standard song that you have been playing for quite some time. Chances are that you’ve become accustomed to playing that tune in a particular way. Well, pick one new voicing that you want to make yours and use it in that song wherever you feel it is suitable. Just by doing this, you have taken your piano playing creativity to another level. Pat yourself on the back for doing so! I mean that. You really have to give credit to yourself with each and every accomplishment. Remember this: your state of mind comes through in your playing. I cannot emphasize that enough. If you feel confident, you will play that way. Likewise, if you have reservations about your ability to put a song across in a confident way, that is likely going to be observable to the listener, at least at some level.
So take one song and take it to many levels. One example of this can be observed and taken advantage of in this particular program which consists of four modules. Each subsequent video session builds upon the previous. You will also get a handle on creating your own arrangement of a song. The particular chord changes of the song used in those sessions (for which a lead sheet is provided) are based on Harold Arlen’s Over The Rainbow (the lyrics were written by E.Y. Harburg). That’s a set of videos toget your piano playing creativity to develop up a few notches. Taking gradual, small steps toward betterment, spending quality time on each of those steps, works like magic. Here is a video excerpt of this very popular collection:
Jazz Piano Chord Voicings “Hidden Secret”
There is another jazz piano chord voicings program that I would like to introduce you to. I’ll share with you why I refer to it as a “hidden secret.” You see, it’s no secret that it’s available. But the real secret exists in the fact that the value of it escapes so many people out there…. yes, I am referring to people who actually find the promotion and go so far as viewing the first lesson. Why is this so? Because, today, when people don’t see a video, they automatically lose interest right away. They don’t even look into the “gold” something may offer them because they have been trained to “need to see a video” on the topic. But I will let you in on something. When I created this program, entitled Pro Piano Chord Bytes, I designed it in a fashion that requires an individual taking personalself-initiative. Each lesson offers an example of a piano chord voicing, using graphics to illustrate how to play it (along with explanation). In addition, I offer commentary that provides specific suggestions for making the most of that particular lesson. The idea is fo have you creating voicings of your own, using the example as a starting point. It’s a bit ironic when you think about it… the very idea in creating this program was to get an individual to enjoy being creative. Creativity involves self-initiative! Yet, they still want to “see it done for them.” Do you think most people are interested in reading text these days? Well, a select few are, and if you have stayed with me up to this point, perhaps you will be one of the few who would be willing to take advantage of that program in the fashion it was meant to be used. The first lesson is actually free and can be found here. If you are able to see where I’m coming from, you may want to continue with the entire 24 weeks (one lesson is delivered weekly). You can look into this chord voicing program here. If you involve yourself with those lessons in the manner they were meant to be used, there is no limit as to the results you will enjoy. I had a lot of fun (to say the least) creating both programs I’ve mentioned on this page.
An Easy, Creative Way To Have Fun Voicing Chords On The Piano
Okay, I would like to introduce you to a fun way to create your very own piano chord voicings, even if you have no experience whatsover! Ready? Great… take a look at this very basic chord structure for the Cmaj7 chord:
Play that chord with either your left hand or right hand. Now, without even seeing an illustration, simply take one of those chord tones and play it in another octave on the piano keyboard instead of where it is (one octave lower or one octave higher). So, if it was the G you chose, the order of the notes you’ll be playing with either be G C E B or C E B G. Wahlah! You are playing a chord voicing! Yes, you will have a larger span to cover with your fingers so split up the voicing between both hands. One way to do this would be to play the lower two keys with your left hand and the upper two keys with your right hand. Play both voicings, one after the other, and listen! Hold each voicing down as you allow yourself to really hear and appreciate the difference between the two. This is a form of ear training. Just by doing this, you are well on your way to expanding your mind, exploring your creative juices, and developing your musical ears! Follow up by going back to the original basic chord shown above and choosing a different chord tone to play elsewhere. Continue this with all the chord tones. You are doing great!
A Most Powerful Chord Voicing Technique For Explosive Growth
In my opinion, the practicing approach I am about to describe is, by far, the single most powerfully effective strategy that one can adopt when it comes to actually creating confidence with learning and incorporating voicings into songs. It is equally effective when it comes to piano fills and any improvisational technique that you want to build confidence with. I actually based an entire collection of piano video tutorials on this special approach to mastering certain aspects of your playing. I sometimes refer to it as “looping.” By taking a very small segment of a tune, like four measures, and playing those same four measures over and over again while incorporating different ideas each time, you soon find yourself experiencing a level of mastery otherwise unattainable. This type of concentration on just a few bars of a tune and repeating them while giving yourself the luxury of approaching them from several different angles is conducive to your reaching heights of creativity that can really amaze you. My Sneak Peeks series of video sessions encourages just that. We take four measures of a song like My Romance and consider different ways of playing voicings, fills, and other ideas each time we play through it. Exposure to this type of “looking over my shoulder” learning session over and over again will have you looking at a song like you never did before. Any given session of Sneak Peeks is not designed to have you learning that song but, instead, getting you to train yourself to think and play creatively. This will have an absolute impact on whatever tunes you choose to play on your own.
Let’s Continue Our Chord Voicing Adventure!
If you decide to take advantage of ProProach, please know that I will consider it a personal pleasure and privilege.It doesn’t end there, however. I see every request for that program come through. It is my hope that you will send me a note every once in a while, letting me know how things are going for you. It thrills me to no end to learn how people’s eyes (and ears) open as they become engaged in this popular program. I never get tired of those emails! Truly, I want you to enjoy your journey as you proceed. I feel as though we are already kindred souls taking part in an adventure that, time and time again, proves to be both exciting and rewarding!
PLAY WITH PASSION!